Since taking over and rebranding Las Vegas' annual marathon, Competitor Group has made quick strides to upgrade the event's image.
In just two years under the Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas Marathon banner, the event has more than doubled in size and gained access to more of the Strip, with the offshoot half-marathon now contested almost entirely on Las Vegas Boulevard, along both the northbound and southbound lanes.
With a 6 a.m. start, though, there was one glaring thing the event didn't have: the full effect of the Las Vegas Strip.
It's got that now.
Tuesday evening, at a splashy outdoor news conference in front of Fashion Show Mall, Competitor announced the marathon and half-marathon, set for Dec. 4, will move from a morning start to an evening start.
"That's how we've always envisioned it," Competitor president Scott Dickey said. "The last 18 months, we've been talking about it pretty consistently with our casino, hotel, city and county partners to see how we could pull it off logistically."
And Dickey expects a huge impact.
"Instantaneously, this becomes the largest night race in the world. This is gonna be a gargantuan race," he said. "This will have a bucket-list effect around the world. It becomes a must-do race."
The benefits are clear for the runners. No 4 a.m. wake-up call. Running under the neon glitz past all the Strip landmarks. Probably warmer weather. But the fans might benefit most, as the late-day start makes it more spectator-friendly.
"The dynamic of the race has changed," said Adam Zocks, vice president and general manager of the race. "Our whole directive (when Competitor took over) was to make this a city-wide event, and we've done that very quickly. It's tremendously exciting for us. This was the way to take it to the next level."
Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman was on hand and typically bombastic about how the race -- nearly on its deathbed four years ago -- reinvented itself.
"Look what happened to it. It blossomed into maybe the greatest running event in the history of the world," said Goodman, who said he wasn't surprised by the event's progress.
"Nothing surprises me ever in Las Vegas. It's a can-do place, and with the right ideas, the cream always rises to the top. And that's what it's done here."
The half-marathon is tentatively set for a 5:30 p.m. start, again almost entirely on Las Vegas Boulevard. The marathon will cover the same course as in 2010, too, but has a planned 4 p.m. start, and the course will be run in reverse -- runners will head out west from the Mandalay Bay start line to cover the first half of the race aided by some daylight, then will run the second half under the lights of the Strip and downtown.
"The marathoners will go out there and get their first 13 miles done, then get the big boost of running (Las Vegas Boulevard) for the last 13 miles," Zocks said.
Competitor got a big assist from Las Vegas Events and the National Finals Rodeo. An agreement was reached for Sunday's NFR performance -- the fourth round -- to move to 1 p.m., meaning rodeo fans and cowboys should all be back to their hotels by the time the races really take over the Strip.
"We've been talking about this probably for two years," said LVE president Pat Christenson, who works with both the NFR and the marathon. "Someone mentioned, 'Why not have a nighttime race?' And a lightbulb just went off for everybody.
"This will be a better experience for the runners, the race of a lifetime on the Strip, and it's better for the spectators -- it's a show with a cast of 35,000."
The race got approximately 28,000 runners in 2009 and 2010, and everyone involved expects the night race to provide a huge boost, perhaps even reaching 35,000.
Competitor launched a new website Tuesday -- stripatnight.com -- that will take registration at a special rate of $121 (lower than last year's $145) through 5:45 p.m. Thursday. Registration will then go dark until reopening at 12:01 a.m. May 31.
Contact reporter Patrick Everson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0353.